BlackBerry Makes Autonomous Vehicle Play

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Autonomous Vehicle Play: According to Tech News, this week, BlackBerry introduced its new Security Credential Management System. A free service for the public and private sectors — this encourages efforts to develop autonomous and connected vehicle pilot programs on a global scale.

Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry, in recent years has pivoted from its past business built around mobile handsets, took the challenge in development of this technology to provide the critical infrastructure for vehicles and traffic lights to exchange information securely on the move.


This service will be first used in conjunction with Invest Ottawa, where it will be used in a 16-kilometer vehicle test track that is meant to resemble a miniature city, complete with pavement markings, traffic lights, stop signs and pedestrian crosswalks just like in a real city.


BlackBerry said the service fees will be free for this new product. The company is working hard to  gain the trust of automakers, as well as local governments that are involved in the development of smart city infrastructure.


“Vehicles need to be able to securely communicate with other vehicles, infrastructure and a plethora of smart devices,” said Mark Wilson, chief marketing officer at BlackBerry, during a press call on Monday.


The future of Autonomous Vehicles (AV) will rely on a connected infrastructure that will also require advanced security measures, BlackBerry emphasized. Security is one area in which the company has excelled, even as its share of the mobile device market diminished.

“We’re focused on securing every connected thing, whether it is a car or an entire city,” added Wilson, “BlackBerry’s footprint in transportation has never been stronger.”


Secure V2V Communication in Autonomous Vehicle

It is interesting to note that security between vehicles will become increasingly important, as connected vehicles use various applications and mechanisms  to exchange information, according to the United States Department of Transportation, such as information about roadway infrastructure, traffic management, and other data that on board sensors can’t always detect.


SCMS, which is based on BlackBerry’s Certicom technology, is built to offer a secure and reliable hosted Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) that can easily manage certificates on behalf of an organization or even an entire ecosystem.

From Ottawa and Beyond

Furthermore, through BlackBerry’s partnership with Invest Ottawa, the very first pilot program will take place in the aforementioned private Autonomous Vehicle test track beginning early next year 2019.

This test tracks will utilize emerging technologies, including 5G networks, with existing city infrastructure — such as traffic lights and pedestrian walkways just as in a real life city.


“Our integrated public and private AV test tracks are equipped with GPS, DSRC, WiFi, 4G/LTE and 5G, making this the first AV test environment of its kind in North America,” said Kelly Daize, director of the CAV Program at Invest Ottawa.


Security Demands for Autonomous Vehicles

However, a connected infrastructure could truly bring smart cities and autonomous vehicles together thereby increasing safety. The, security would become more and more important, given that any weak point in the system could open the door to system hackers and crackers.


“Credentials are about security, not operation,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.


“Once you connect up a smart city you can lower operating costs, lower traffic, provide better police protection through better dispatch — larger area fewer people — and generally make the citizens happier,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“But if the system is vulnerable to hack, suddenly these advantages pale in the face of potential life-threatening risks, and traffic lights, utilities and police are disrupted — or, worse, turned into weapons,” Enderle added.

“The BlackBerry SCMS is designed to ensure the benefits of the former without incurring the risks of the latter,” he explained. “It is to make sure these systems are always used for rather than against us by a hostile outside entity.”


Smarter Cities or Cars

Interestingly, BlackBerry is aiming to be an early pioneer in the development of back-end technology related to smart cities, but given that vehicle deployment is still in the very early stages, and few communities have expressed interest in smartening up, is the company jumping the gun?


“There are differing perspectives on how soon we will see this infrastructure deployed,” said Egil Juliussen, Ph.D., director of research at IHS Automotive Technology.

“There is no question that the connectivity between smart cities and vehicles would help, but so far we’ve seen that the automakers aren’t relying on the smart cities to be developed,” he told TechNewsWorld. “However, at the same time the smart cities are still the most likely to be the first places where will see autonomous vehicles head to, as it will be easy to test and try out early versions.”


For those reason it does make sense for BlackBerry to get involved with smart cities at this time.

According to Juliussen: “They want to be an important player in the space, and it is a shrewd move for them to offer this technology for free,”  “It positions them well for volume when the time comes, and this will help them become established as a leading vendor.”


The Importance of Connectivity

Though if the automakers remained focused on vehicle sensors, machine learning, and Artificial Inteligence to handle the daily grind of driving, most importantly, the connectivity with smart cities should help autonomous vehicles come to fruition sooner.


“Now as far as the need for the autonomous vehicles to talk to the city as well as each other, this is necessary to optimize the system,” said Enderle. “No matter how good the system in the car is, it’s limited by what it can see and operate — same as a human.”


Coupled with the idea of making driving safer, handing management to a connected network of systems also could reduce congestion on the roads.


“If it is networked, then the car becomes a component of the whole, and overall traffic can be rerouted dynamically and coupled with traffic light timing. Congestion can be massively reduced, and wait times at lights all but eliminated,” Enderle explained.

This approach could be tailored to first respondents, who could be directed accordingly, so that police, fire and medical responsiveness would be increased. The system also could be used to surround and slow escaping criminals or terrorists.

“In other words, the cars could be used in concert to address issues,” said Enderle. “For instance, say the city needed to evacuate an area quickly. Cars not in use in other parts of the city could be rerouted to the scene — with the prior approval of their owners — and coordinated electronically. That would optimize the evacuation, shifting lane use dynamically to maximize the speed of initial inbound help and then outbound escape, and safely overriding traffic speed laws for the duration of the problem.”

This clear understanding of what a connected infrastructure could mean in our modern traffic reinforces the importance of keeping it secure. Hackers literally could bring cities to a standstill or even worse!

BlackBerry’s Strong Backend

Just as BlackBerry established itself as the market leader for secure communications in the business communications space, SCMS could fill a similar role. Given that there isn’t an Apple- or Google-powered device to displace it this time around, BlackBerry could remain dominant — unless, of course, other companies release competing technology to secure the back end in the V2X space.

“There is always some risk in that, but eventually the software will be able to move beyond platforms,” said IHS Automotive Technology’s Juliussen. “With autonomous systems, cybersecurity is one of the toughest problems, so BlackBerry getting involved now shows that they have strong cybersecurity platforms.” 


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